Penn State Football: The Road Ahead

By Rick Stavig

The Nittany Lions of The Pennsylvania State University are at a crossroads in their season.

Entering the hardest stretch of their schedule (the rest of the season), will the Lions be the undisciplined and unlucky team that lost to Ohio and Virginia?  Or will they be the team that’s won three in a row by two touchdowns or more?

The Lions have had a little bit of controversy surrounding their program the past year, to put it as mildly as humanly possible.  And they’ve responded admirably.

First was the ongoing Jerry Sandusky case, in which the former Penn State icon was found to be one of the most evil and despicable human beings living on this planet.

Then there was the coaching controversy, which found Penn State brass firing one of the most recognizable men in the history of the sport in Joe Paterno.  The way they fired him (calling him in the middle of the night) was par for how the schools administration was handling the entire scandal.

When Bill O’Brien was named Head Coach, alumni and former players were furious that it wasn’t Tom Bradley.  But I mean seriously, should anyone who ever had anything to do with both Paterno AND Sandusky for years, and who was indirectly around the “situation” the entire time, actually be considered?  O’Brien was a fantastic hire, and he’s someone who actually wants to be there.  Penn State fans- cherish that.

Then came the sanctions from the NCAA, and we all know how badly that turned out to be for the Lions.

Then dozens of players began transferring to play at other schools, notably Silas Redd, a potential All American running back.

By the time the season rolled around, everyone was ready for football again, and not more controversy.

And what a dud their season opener turned out to be.

It’s tough to imagine a team from the MAC coming into Happy Valley and throttling the Lions in front of nearly 110,000 fans, but it happened.  Granted, Ohio is a good team, but c’mon.

Then the kicking debacle against Virginia, which saw ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ miss 4 field goals as the Lions lost by one.

Since then, however, things have been turning around.

Navy, Temple and Illinois were trounced by “O’Brien’s Lions”.  Very convincingly as well.  Matt McGloin, who has a history of losing football tossing competitions with regular students, has actually played fairly well.  The defense has been a typical Penn State defense, Mike Mauti and Gerald Hodges living up to the standard of ‘Linebacker U’.

Now were at the crossroads for the rest of the season.

The Lions have a very tough game against an unbeaten Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) team, but it will be at Beaver Stadium.  Following that, on the road at Iowa (3-2, 1-0), which is always a tough place to play.   Then the Lions have a home game versus Ohio State (5-0, 1-0), which should prove to be a nightmare.

After that, PSU has two road games at Purdue (3-1, 0-0) and Nebraska (4-1, 1-0), two highly explosive offenses. The Lions then finish the season with home games versus Indiana (2-2, 0-1) and Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), and the Badgers aren’t nearly as bad as their record indicates.

So, now that we’re five games into the Lions schedule, they sit at a mediocre 3-2.

However, they are showing signs of life.  Needless to say, it’s going to be very interesting to see if Lions continue their winning way with the meat of the schedule on their plate.

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